David Wilkie (swimmer)

David Andrew Wilkie MBE (born 8 March 1954) is a Scottish former competitive swimmer who was Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion in the 1970s. He is the only person to have held British, American, Commonwealth, European, world and Olympic swimming titles at the same time[2] and was the first British swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal since Anita Lonsbrough in 1960.[3]

David Wilkie
Personal information
Full nameDavid Andrew Wilkie
National teamGreat Britain
Born (1954-03-08) 8 March 1954
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Height1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)[1]
Weight76 kg (168 lb)
StrokesMedley, breaststroke
ClubWarrender Baths Club
College teamUniversity of Miami (U.S.)

He is a member of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame, the International Swimming Hall of Fame, has been described as Scotland's greatest swimmer[4][5] and Britain's finest swimmer.[6]

Early days

David Wilkie's parents came from Aberdeen, Scotland, but were stationed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, when Wilkie was born on 8 March 1954.[7][8] His family regularly patronised the open air Colombo Swimming Club where Wilkie learned to swim.[7][9]

At 11 years old his parents sent him back to Scotland as a boarding school pupil at Daniel Stewart's College in Edinburgh,[10] and, while a student there, he joined the Warrender Baths Club, one of Scotland's most successful swimming clubs.[7][11] It was there that he began to train intensively and develop his specialist stroke, the breaststroke under one of Britain's leading coaches Frank Thomas,[12][13] whom Wilkie credited with giving him the motivation to become a world class swimmer.[7] In 1969, Wilkie was chosen to join the elite Scottish Training Squad organised by the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association.[12]

National and international success

In 1969 Wilkie swam representing Britain for the first time in an international swimming contest swimming against the Russian 200-metre breaststroke world record-holder Nikolai Pankin.[7]

Wilkie broke the British record for the 200-metre breastroke in an international match against Denmark in July 1970.[12] He then won a bronze medal in front of his home crowd in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in the 200-metre breaststroke breaking his own British record again.[12][14] He wore a swim cap for that event during the commonwealth games, making him the first elite swimmer to wear one in a major competition.[5][13]

In 1970 the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association awarded Wilkie the Nancy Riach Memorial Medal Award (awarded to the person who has the done the most to enhance or uphold the prestige of Scottish Swimming during the year) and the W.G. Todd Cup and Prize (Junior Swimmer of the Year). This was the first time in the Association's history that both awards had gone to the same person in the same year. Wilkie continued to hold the Nancy Riach award every year from 1972 to 1976.[14]

At the Scottish national long course championships in 1972, Wilkie won five events.[14] However Wilkie's world breakthrough came when he won silver in the 200-metre breaststroke at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, in a European record time of 2:23:67 [14] in spite of being ranked only 25th in the world.[7] He also broke the Scottish record times for the 100-metre breaststroke and the 200-metre individual medley.[11]

In 1973 Wilkie was studying and swimming in the United States.[15] He won the World Championship for 200-metre breaststroke in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and broke the world record.[16][17]

At the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, he won a gold in the 200-metre breaststroke, a second gold in the 200-metre individual medley, and a silver in the 100-metre breaststroke.[14] Also in 1974 at the European Championships in Vienna, Austria, he won a gold in the 200-metre individual medley in a world record time. He also won gold for the 200-metre breaststroke and silver as a member of the British 4x100-metre medley relay team.[14][18] From 1972 to 1976 he was unbeaten in 200-metre breaststroke races.[19]

Olympic gold

However, it was after several years of further intensive training, while studying at the University of Miami on an athletic scholarship and competing for the university's Miami Hurricanes swimming and diving team,[2] that Wilkie's finest hour came. He won gold in the 200-metre breaststroke at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, in a world-record time of 2:15:11 and preventing an American sweep of the men's swimming gold medals. He also added a 100-metre silver medal to his collection in a time of 1:03:43[14] His world record was to remain unbroken for six years.[6]

Wilkie won three Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National US Championships[20] and three NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships(NCAA) US college championships while at Miami, was four times All-American and was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.[21] The head swimming coach there was Bill Diaz[22] and his individual coach was Charlie Hodgson.[7]

He was European Swimmer of the Year three times,[20] British Sports personality of the year in 1975,[23] in 1977 he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire,[24] in 1982 he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame[20] and in 2002 was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.[25]

Post-competitive swimming

Since his retirement, Wilkie remained active in the world of swimming, involved in swimming aids and technology. He was said to be the first swimmer to wear a head-cap and goggles together in competition to improve the streamline effect within the water[5][13] although he also said he wore the goggles because of an allergy to chlorine in the water and the cap to keep his long hair in.[19]

Wilkie co-founded a healthcare company called Health Perception (UK) Ltd. in 1986. It was sold to William Ransom and Son plc in 2004 for £7.8 million.[26][27] In 1985 he met his Swedish partner Helen Isacson[6][26][28] with whom he had two children, Natasha and Adam who were 23 and 20 in 2013.[29] In 2009 he helped found Pet's Kitchen,[30] a pet food company supplying British supermarkets.[31]

In an interview with bunkered.co.uk in April 2016, Wilkie criticised the re-introduction of golf to the Olympic Games. He called Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player's claims that the Olympics would grow the game globally as 'absolute bullshit', while he also said that players who don't stay in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the Games can't be classed as true Olympians.[32]

See also


  1. David Wilkie. sports-reference.com
  2. (31 July 2012) Coaches; David Wilkie MBE "Coached off the Coach", STV (Scottish Television), Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  3. McLean, Euan (5 August 2001) "Swimming Great sporting moments; Scots swimmer David Wilkie takes gold in Montreal Olympics 200m breaststroke", The Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland).
  4. (June 2008) "Scottish Olympic Legends", The Winning Zone, Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  5. (29 June 2012) "Golden Scots: David Wilkie in Montreal, 1976", BBC Sport Scotland, Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  6. Campbell, Alastair (10 July 2004) "Wilkie's strokes of genius secure him place in history – and my talent pool", The Times, Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  7. (June 2007) Past Masters: David Wilkie, Scotland's Olympic Gold Medal winning swimmer In the Winning Zone, Retrieved 20 May 2012
  8. David Wilkie Swimmer Aberdeen About Aberdeen, Retrieved 5 October 2013
  9. (2013) Colombo Swimming Club Official Web Page Retrieved 5 October 2012
  10. Philip, Robert (1 September 2011). "Chapter 50: David Wilkie MBE". Scottish Sporting Legends. Edinburgh, UK: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1845967703.
  11. Gilmour, Jamie (1990). One Hundred years of Warrender baths Club. Macdonald Lindsay Pindar. ISBN 0951678701.
  12. Riach, Fraser (26 September 1970) "Poised to join world-class swimmers: Sporting Scots 4 – David Wilkie", The Glasgow Herald, Page 8, A copy is also available on the internet at , Retrieved 1 April 2013
  13. (1 February 2003) Coach to Olympic legend dies in pool The Scpotsman, Retrieved 20 May 2013
  14. Bislborough, Peter (1988). One Hundred Years of Scottish Swimming. Scottish Amateur Swimming Association. ASIN B000QB8VIG.
  15. "Wilkie back in the Scots team". Glasgow Herald. 13 July 1973. p. 5. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  16. "World record for David Wilkie". Glasgow Herald. 7 September 1973. p. 4. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  17. "A record swim from Wilkie; 1973". ESPN.co.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  18. European Swimming Championships (Men) GBRAthletics, Retrieved 2 April 2013
  19. Gallgher, Brendon (24 July 2006) "Inspired Wilkie left the world in his wake", The Telegraph, Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  20. (1982) David Wilkie (GBR) 1982 Honor Swimmer Archived 6 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine, International Swimming Hall of Fame, Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  21. (1987) University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Inductee; David Wilkie, Biography Archived 28 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 22 April 2013
  22. Sharnick, Morton (24 March 1975) "Outsider In The Mainstream", Sports Illustrated, SIVault, Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  23. Anderson, Ron (7 November 1975) "Wilkie Sportsman of the year", The Glasgow Herald, Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  24. (24 July 2012) Olympic heroes, No 25: David Wilkie The Scotsman, Retrieved 15 April 2014
  25. David Wilkie, MBE Archived 12 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Sport Scotland, Retrieved 2 April 2013
  26. (16 April 2004) "Swimmer Wilkie is now millionaire", The Scotsman, Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  27. (15 April 2004) Ransom(Wm)& Son. Acquisition FE Investigate, RNS, Retrieved 2 April 2013
  28. Heathfield Interior Design Company web page of Helen Isacson, Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  29. Robinson, Peter (20 July 2013) "Whatever happened to... Olympic swimmer David Wilkie", The Daily Express, Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  30. Pet's Kitchen official company web page Retrieved 14 September 2013
  31. (3 February 2013) "Olympic legend David Wilkie: Andy Murray became a Brit when he won gold.. he'll be English if he wins Wimbledon", The Daily Record, Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  32. Inglis, Martin (28 April 2016). "Olympic golf growth 'bullshit', says Wilkie". bunkered.


  • David Wilkie by David Wilkie, Pat Besford and Tommy Long, Kemps, 1976; ISBN 978-0905255224
  • Winning with Wilkie : A Guide to Better Swimming by David Wilkie and Athole Still, Stanley Paul, 1977 ISBN 978-0091295516
  • Splash! : Swimming with Wilkie by David Wilkie and Kelvin Juba, Hutchinson, 1982; ISBN 978-0091502805
  • The Handbook of Swimming by David Wilkie and Kelvin Juba, Pelham, 1986; ISBN 978-0720715903

Preceded by
Gunnar Larsson
Men's 200-metre individual medley
world record-holder (long course)

24 August 1974 – 23 August 1975
Succeeded by
Graham Smith

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